Ballet Stars

Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s Jo-Ann Sundermeier Doesn’t Sweat the Small Stuff

Réjean Brandt Photography, Courtesy Royal Winnipeg Ballet

After growing up in Florida, how did you adjust to the climate when you moved to Winnipeg, Canada?

It was shocking. The winter is brutal! Now I know what to expect, but it's still a bit of a shock. I think the first day of snow was September 26th.

Do you have a go-to anecdote about company life?

Once we were on tour in Arkansas for Nutcracker. We got to the finale, and the music cut out. There was a womp-womp moment, the curtain came down, and we had to restart from the top of the coda. But the audience was excited they saw it twice—they felt like they got double their money!


Sundermeier as Giselle

Stanislav Balyaevksy, Courtesy RWB

You left Winnipeg to dance with Smuin Ballet for two years. What did you gain from your time there?

I started in RWB's school and was in the company for 10 years before I left. Going to Smuin Ballet, I could start over; there were unbiased eyes looking at me. It's unranked, and the rep definitely put me in my place now and then! I came back to RWB with a fresh outlook.

Why did you return to RWB?

I felt like I hadn't fulfilled that principal opportunity when it was given to me. I came back and the first thing I did was Giselle, and then we went on a four-week tour to Europe. It was wonderful.

What aspect of your dancing have you worked particularly hard for?

Developing my artistry. I'm a bit of a technique nut. But I'm at a point in my career where I don't need to prove anything, and I want to connect with my audience. I try to come up with facial expressions or movements for different scenarios, and in rehearsal I focus on being in the story and reacting to my partner.

Is there something you do really well outside of ballet?

I like to cook. I love golfing and swimming. Some of us RWB dancers go paintballing at the beginning of every season together—I'm a sharpshooter!

Sundermeier with Liang Xing in Carmina Burana

Réjean Brandt, Courtesy RWB

And you're a new mom! What has that been like?

Wonderful. I'm definitely in the mentality of "Don't sweat the small stuff," because there are more important things in life. I feel like my body is slowly getting put back together, and I'm hoping that I'm good to go in February for Romeo and Juliet.

Do you have advice for up-and-coming dancers?

Really listen to the music. You could be doing the best thing, but if you're dancing off the music, no one cares. Musicality is key.

The Conversation
Ballet Training
Via Burst

I'm a ballet dancer of 13 years, but I only got serious about it a few years ago, and very recently realized that I might want to pursue ballet professionally. I've contemplated auditioning for several prestigious pre-professional programs. But now I'm a junior in high school, so I'm worried it's too late. Should I still go for it, or am I better off staying at my current studio and going to college? —Lexi

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Whether live or recorded, the seven ballet programs listed below, streaming now through next October, will deliver all of the magic that The Royal Ballet has to offer straight to your local movie theater. Can you smell the popcorn already?

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Angela Sterling, Courtesy PNB

Your teacher at Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, Marcia Dale Weary, recently passed away. What impact did she have on you?

I feel deeply indebted to her. She shaped my life's course, and I know that were it not for her, I would not be living out my dream today. She led by example through her remarkable commitment to her work, as well as her genuine kindness and generosity.

You were a trainee with San Francisco Ballet. What was that experience like?

It was an exposure to different schools of thought. We were mostly in the full-lengths, and watching run-throughs of Sleeping Beauty and Don Quixote was revolutionary for me. But I was young and far away from home. That transition was hard. My body started changing. It wanted to be fleshy. Biology is cruel in that way. I desperately wanted to fit in, but it wasn't meant to be.

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